My Architect

During the night, a spider built its web
in and around our mailbox. I search
for the thing, hoping it doesn’t have a red
hourglass on its belly, before I reach

into the box—brushing aside the web,
breaking the whole into fine, sticky threads—
and pull out catalogs, postcards, ads, dead
letters, bills, sweepstakes and all the evidence

of an ordinary life. This happens
every morning for a week. I destroy
what the spider creates. Human sadness
and spider sadness, my joy and its joy,

are alien emotions. The unseen
spider might be incapable of grief
at this destruction. It might never weep
or mourn its losses. Does this spider need

to celebrate the daily construction
and reconstruction of its web, its home,
its killing floor? I only ask these questions
because I want to confess and atone

for the small sin of valuing my life
more than the life of this nameless spider,
who rebuilds its damn web for seven nights.
This eight-legged architect, street fighter,

union worker and guerilla soldier
will not surrender to me. I admire
this spider, though what I see as boldness
is likely the dumb instinct to survive

and replicated, to give birth, to mother
hundreds of children, to construct these webs,
each one identical to the others,
to repeat, repeat, repeat until death.

On the eighth morning, the spider is gone.
Briefly, I grieve this loss and am surprised,
briefly, by my grief, before I return,
return, return to my dumb and brief life.

 

 

Winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the PEN/Malamud Award for Short Fiction, a PEN/Hemingway Citation for Best First Fiction, and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, Sherman Alexie is a poet, short story writer, novelist, and performer. He has published 24 books including What I’ve Stolen, What I’ve Earned, poetry, from Hanging Loose Press; Blasphemy: New and Selected Stories, from Grove Press; and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a novel from Little, Brown Books for Children. A Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Indian, Alexie grew up in Wellpinit, Washington, on the Spokane Indian Reservation. He has been an urban Indian since 1994 and lives in Seattle with his family.

 

“My Architect” first appeared in Gulf Stream #21 (2004).

 

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